Afghanistan veteran’s fight to be recognised for housing help under Armed Forces Covenant

Sam Rutland, who served in Afghanistan, wants to be recognised for help under the Armed Forces Covenant

A former serviceman who was on the frontline in Afghanistan says a plea to Thanet council for housing help has not been given proper consideration under the Armed Forces Covenant and legal obligations under a Duty amendment.

Sam Rutland, 35, served for three years with the Coldstream Guards infantry and was posted on active duty in Afghanistan.

He was in the military between 2007-2011 before being discharged in relation to PTSD which had been diagnosed by Combat Stress in 2009.

Sam, who lives in Margate with his partner and their two sons aged four and six, also has a back problem which means he uses walking aids and sometimes a mobility scooter but says all he needs to adapt any home is banisters on both sides of any stairs.

In December Sam’s landlady told him she needed to take the property back by this March. Sam, who is registered disabled, contacted Thanet council for help and referred to his disability needs, mentioning he had fallen down a few stairs due to his back issue and that he was a veteran with PTSD.

The Armed Forces Covenant

The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation that those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, along with their families, should be treated fairly. It says they should not be disadvantaged because of their service and it is a recognition of the sacrifices they make or have made. The Covenant does not mean all service personnel will receive priority treatment but consideration should be given to their circumstances and service-related disadvantages.

Thanet council is one of the organisations to sign up to the Covenant.

Last November an amendment to the Armed Forces Act 2006 came into force, creating legal obligations on specified bodies, such as councils, in their dealings with serving and former personnel whether they were signed up to the Covenant or not. This is the Armed Forces Covenant Duty and that duty “means that specified bodies should think about and place an appropriate amount of weight on the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Sam, whose partner Louise works as a carer, says he is asking to be raised from a Band C on the housing list to Band B with the aim of securing social housing due to his needs and health disadvantages related to his service.

He said: “I was discharged due to my PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2011. I was in Afghanistan and that is where the PTSD comes from. Seeing my friends shot and killed took its toll.

“We can’t afford to privately rent now rents are over £1,000 so I approached the council for help. They have a duty of care but are refusing to accept I come under Covenant law saying because I was not in the forces within the last three years my banding will not go up.

“But section 4.17 of the Covenant says people suffering mental (ill) health  (from the Armed Forces Community) should be given appropriate priority for social housing.”

The section highlights that “mental ill health (wholly or partly attributable to Service) can continue or start years after the person has left the Armed Forces” and statutory guidance says ‘additional preference’ – high priority – for social housing is given to certain groups in the Armed Forces Community.

The guidance says the Covenant applies to those who have served within the last five years but that time limit is not specified in the guidance in relation to those suffering physical or mental health health disabilities.

Last year’s amendment highlights: “Special provision may be justified by the effects of the unique obligations and sacrifices of Service life, especially for those that have sacrificed the most, such as the bereaved and the injured (whether that injury is physical or mental).”

It applies to groups including former members of any of Her Majesty’s forces who are ordinarily resident in the UK.


Thanet council’s intervention resulted in the authority serving an improvement order on Sam’s landlady – although this doesn’t include installing additional banisters – and this cancelled a section 21 eviction notice. The family will still need to vacate the property in due course.

The council also arranged an Occupational Therapy assessment and Sam says he has been told that because he has some difficulty going down stairs in his current home he can only be accepted for a flat.

Sam said: “I have been bidding on properties but am being disregarded because the properties have stairs. I do have a back problem which goes into my leg so if I come down stairs and there is no support my leg might go but I just need banisters. I’m fine going up because there is a banister on the left hand side.

“I did say how do I get up or down in flats if the lift is not working. Being in flats will not help me. I suffer PTSD, loud bangs (from doors/communal areas) will massively affect me mentally. Since this all began I have had to have psychological intervention, my medication has been increased and I have extra tablets for anxiety. It has sent me on a downward path.”

Sam is currently being supported by forces charity Walking With The Wounded. However, after initial contact from the charity it was two months before details were provided for the council’s Armed Forces Champion.

‘A huge stress’

Sam’s mum Emma said the Champion does not appear to have sufficient knowledge of the covenant in relation to mental ill health. She said: “Although (she) is trying her best, today we are still at the stage of TDC not dealing with Sam’s housing needs appropriately.

“TDC also advised WWTW that they had to request certain things as Sam is registered disabled and the house he currently resides in is not meeting his personal needs and the landlady requested the house be vacated.

“TDC requested an OT assessment which has been done but this assessment has been clearly written in terms of TDC’s needs and not Sam’s. Why on earth would a sentence be added that “Sam does not come under the Armed Forces Covenant as he has been out of the Army for more than 3 years”. The OT assessment was for Sam’s needs not TDC’s and the fact that this sentence is in the report (I believe) shows it was completed under biased opinions and not for Sam’s needs.

“On the OT report it does not say Sam “can’t use the stairs”, all Sam needs is an extra handrail on the opposite wall to the banisters so that he can grip with both hands.

“TDC is currently advising Sam can only be put in a flat, whoever is making these decisions has no idea on what can trigger PTSD,

“Putting Sam in a flat will mean there will be a communal door that will constantly be banging with tenants coming in and out, also having someone live above you banging about will be a huge trigger for Sam.

“Due to Sam’s disability and embarrassment of using a mobility scooter in public he doesn’t very often leave the house therefore his garden is his escape from the four walls of the house, TDC want to take this away from him by putting him in a flat.

“The whole situation has been such a huge stress on Sam, his medication has had to be upped and he has also been put on further medication for mental health/PTSD. TDC is failing this ex-service personnel and in today’s society this should not be happening.

“My son’s housing application has been an awful experience from the onset. The management by TDC (of) an extremely vulnerable person has been shocking to say the least.”

Allocations Policy

Thanet council Photo Frank Leppard

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Our Housing Options team assesses each housing register application on its own merits, taking into account the suitability of current accommodation, together with any disclosed health, disability or welfare needs.

“We are able to provide specialist adaptations for people moving into a new home, where these are supported by an Occupational Therapist. We will only match an applicant to a property that is suitable or can be adapted for their specific needs.

“Our Allocations Policy currently states that Band B of the Housing Register will be awarded to ‘Armed Forces Personnel’. Applicants must be actively serving, or have served within the previous three years. We will be reviewing our Allocations Policy and will consider the sections relating to Armed Forces personnel as part of this process.

“We are unable to comment on specific cases, for confidentiality reasons, however, we do have an Armed Forces Covenant lead, and are committed to supporting all residents and ensuring that accommodation is suitable for individual circumstances.”

Housing Act 1996 (Additional Preference for Armed Forces)

Under the Housing Act 1996 (Additional Preference for Armed Forces) (England)  Section 166A(3), the requirement is for local authorities to frame their allocation scheme to give additional preference to certain members of the Armed Forces community, where they fall within one or more of the reasonable preference categories and have urgent housing needs. These include:

  1. Former members of the Regular Armed Forces
  2. Serving members of the Regular Armed Forces who are suffering from a serious injury, illness or disability which is wholly or partly attributable to their service.
  3. Serving or former members of the Reserve Armed Forces who are suffering from a serious injury, illness or disability which is wholly or partly attributable to their service.

No time limits are specified in this section. A time period of service within the last five years is applied to making exemptions to local connection criteria for housing for those from the Armed Forces community.

The government guidance adds: “The mental health and wellbeing of our Armed Forces, whether they are Regulars, Reservists or veterans, is a priority for this government.

“We want to ensure that serving and former members of the Armed Forces who suffer from mental ill health are given appropriate priority for social housing where they need it, together with appropriate care and support where this is relevant.

Section 166A(3)(d) of the 1996 Act provides that local authorities must frame their allocation scheme to ensure that reasonable preference is given to people who need to move on medical and welfare grounds, including grounds relating to a disability.”

Armed Forces Covenant Duty Statutory Guidance

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  1. As I ex serviceman ,I care and worry about ex service personnel like this ,she a politician ,and I think it was Cameron ,who said ,he wanted a convenment with service personnel,I think ,most ex and serving went ,what a load of rubbish or words to that effect,it was just trying to look for ,and he did absolutely nothing ,for service personnel,and no ,PM has done anything for the ex service personnel,all talk sunlight else,installing the quarters the have to live in ,not good enough immigrants ,but good enough for service personnel,When I served in Germany ,in the winter months ,heating was turned off at 1700hours and not put on till 0600hours,to save money ,meanwhile officer quarters ,where heating was on 24 hours a day, as I said don’t trust politicians national or local,to deal with ex service personnel,needs

  2. If only he was an Afghan or Ukrainian he would be having a brand new house built for him courtesy of Thanet Labour Group.

    See previous reports. Disgraceful.

  3. It’s a disgrace we can’t even help our own ,after all he has done for our country , but we can help others from outside it’s wrong, wrong wrong

    • Weren’t some Afghans being offered asylum because they worked for the British Army, and once we withdrew and the Taliban resumed control, these people’s lives were in jeopardy?

    • Sam has a home, but his landlord, for whatever reason, is chucking him and his wife and children out of it.
      Afghan and Ukrainian refugees don’t have homes, because either they’re full of Taliban murderers or the Rusians have bombe them to rubble.

      • Sam may have a home but this home is not suitable to his needs and the Landlady has every right to request her property back. I

      • You have no idea of why the landlady is “chucking” him out. In 2013 I moved in with my elderly mother, gave up my job to become her full time carer and so I let out my flat. Mum has recently died and her home is having to be sold as it is a 4 way inheritance so I need to ask the tenant in my flat to leave so I can return to live there. I am really sorry he has to leave after 10 years but otherwise I have nowhere to live. No doubt you will criticise me for “chucking” him out. But it is MY property. You and others who are so quick to criticise landlords never know the full details and have no right to pass judgement.

  4. Being an ex army wife PTSD is horrible to live with ! My husband had seen friends killed in front of him being in the bomb disposal of the royal engineers
    When he came out after 25 years he had no surport from the army found life very hard to readape . Unfortunately he is no longer with us died aged 48
    Join the forces they say have a great life !!
    But when you come out your get no help !!!!

  5. Phyllis it doesn’t matter that he has a home, or that his landlord has asked them to move. Where Sam is at the moment still does not meet the requirements needed for Sam and his family.
    This brave man has seen,heard,smelt,lost brothers and paid the price of war. And this country and councils turn there backs.
    Sam and family should be rehomed in a 3 bed bungalow or detached house at the very least. This should also be completed within a month no ifs or but’s.
    Can be done
    Should be done
    As they clearly do for others
    Or take it straight to national papers
    Best wishes and good luck

  6. Once again, a false conflict is being created. A conflict between people who are seen as “deserving cases” and those seen as “undeserving” in some way.
    Britain remains the 5th or(more likely now) the 6th richest country in the world.
    The country has “debts” but over 90% of the so-called “national debt” is owed to the Bank of England! So we owe lots of money to ourselves!!
    We have enough money to provide adequate housing to whoever is in need.
    But it suits governments to limit building houses for social need in order to fuel the kind of disputes being aired on this site.
    And it suits building developers to only build expensive executive-style houses as they can make more money out of them.
    And local councils lack the kind of cash to build affordable homes.

  7. Typical TDC not fit for purpose, you serve your Country and ask very little in return,as an ex serviceman myself this is totally disgraceful, shame on TDC.

  8. He would be a much better choice than the druggie alcoholic that me & the neighbours have now with the noise, abuse, breaking things & fighting all the time paid for with benefits.

  9. Best wishes to Sam and family. Hope decent accommodation becomes available soon. And thanks for your service.

  10. He has paid the ultimate price for his country and when he needs help the authority has let him down, bloody disgusting. My daughter is currently at Sandhurst and her partner is a paratrooper at Colchester, I fear for them when they leave the forces.

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